Image Credit: Mikaela B.
Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Calynn M. Lawrence is a 27-year-old entrepreneur, community advocate and media influencer. As the Founder and CEO of the Calynn Communications & Creative corporation, she has gained quite the reputation as a young, budding pillar of her community. She owns the nonprofit initiative The Fresh Faces Project (est. 2014) that has helped over 800 budding starlets, the Chicago Talent TV (est. 2018) web series that has amassed hundreds of thousands of views, and the online publications The World Times, What’s Good Weekly, Millionaire’s in the Making and Icons in the Now.
She’s been heralded for her remarkable contributions to society in marketing, media and PR! She’s worked with large industry giants like Chick-fil-A, Miss Black America, Ms. International World, as well as Fashion Weeks in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Paris and more while also dedicating a lot of her service to up and coming talents and business owners. She’s been called “one of the greatest minds in creative PR,” “The Micro -Philanthropist Bringing Together A Legion Of Legion Potential Legends” and a “breakthrough businesswoman for the underrepresented” by various news outlets over the course of her decade+ career in advertising and media.
Some of her accolades include holding four RCCI Academy Awards, Woman of the Year, the National Humanitarian Award, and more, as well as being the former Miss World America Nation 2020 and Miss United States Universe Tourism 2021.
Image Credit: Mikaela B.
Her latest accomplishment is finishing her Bachelors of Science in Liberal Arts and Social Science with distinction as an Honors Society participant. This is her second undergraduate degree after working her whole life in marketing and media with hopes to do a career shift in her 30’s. She accomplished this while working a full time corporate 9-5 and managing her various entrepreneurial ventures! Now, she awaits the start of her Masters of Leadership program in a few weeks, after which she’ll be doing direct entry into her doctorate in Community Pastoral Counseling program. Her recent degree completion served as motivation for her to launch her latest philanthropic endeavor, “The 2023 Scholars-In-the-Making Supplement Fund.” We got the chance to interview her about this initiative below.
Congratulations on your degree completion and continuing on to graduate school! What an accomplishment given everything that you’ve been juggling. Tell us more about what that process looked like?
Thank you! I definitely had many sleepless nights, jam packed weekends full of homework and assignments, and lots of therapy sessions dedicated to being stressed the heck out haha! However, I’ve always been very dedicated to my self improvement and bettering my career. So, when I had that calling in 2021 that I wanted to eventually shift careers to one that solely focused on the advancement of society, especially the BIPOC community, I knew what I had to do in order to get into a position of power that would allow me the power to create positive change at an actual systemic level. Thus, I’ve been in school for the past 20 months to complete my most recent degree and will be in school for another couple of years doing an accelerated doctorate pathway. I am so happy to have made it this far because it certainly was not easy but I feel empowered to make it to the finish line no matter what trials I face along the way.
Image Credit: Mikaela B.
Have you always been successful in school? Pursuing a doctoral degree, as well as completing a Bachelors of Science with honors society, especially while maintaining a full time career is no easy feat. Therefore, you must presumably be academically gifted.
I would say that school has been alright for me in general. I mean, I grew up with parents who would not accept less than above average grades and performance in school because they knew their children were capable of such. My mother has a Masters degree and has been both a stay at home mom and a working mom throughout my life and my father always held a full time job, sometimes with a second job on the side. Coming from a low income neighborhood with a humble household budget, my parents wanted all of their children to rise above our surroundings and go on to have successful, good paying careers.
That has so far been successful with all 3 of their children being college grads, my big sister having a high paying tech career, me with my career and my little sister is beginning her career. So, I was on honor roll all throughout grade school as were my sisters, and I graduated as Valedictorian. Then, I went on to what was at that time the #4 ranked high school in the state of Illinois, Jones, and graduated with decent grades. My focus was more so on working my Retail Business internship that I did very well in for 3 years at the downtown Nordstrom mall and my part time job at H&M.
Then, for my first degree I attended a city college for personal and financial reasons, graduating with a dual focus degree in Business and Humanities. And, here we are now with my most recent graduation where my GPA is the highest it’s been in a decade. That’s likely because I know that graduate school programs will not accept mediocre grades so I had no choice but to be as competitive as possible since finishing my doctorate is a die-hard goal I am immensely dedicated to. Before I am 30 years old, my name will be Dr. Calynn Lawrence or Dr. Calynn Whatever if I’m married by then. So, I wouldn’t say I’m naturally any smarter than the average Jane, I’ve just got an insane passion and work ethic for the impact I want to make on the world.
That’s fantastic to hear! It seems that you come from a great foundation. What is the impact you hope to achieve on the world as you mentioned?
Thank you! I want to die one day knowing that I’ve helped reach as many hearts, change as many lives and heal as many hurting souls as possible. That’s why I’d like to go into a role in government once I finish school so that I can have a direct impact on community programming, specifically for human services. I want to potentially create positive change within causes I am so invested in like education equity and legal system reform. Being Black/African American, a woman and from a low income background, I have an affinity for underrepresented, underfunded, and under supported marginalized groups and I want to dedicate my life to helping them progress.
We certainly wish you well with that! Given your current track record of impeccable community service stemming from your childhood up until now through your volunteering, your nonprofit The Fresh Faces Project and monetary contributions to many charitable initiatives, you are certainly on your way to your goal. Tell us about your current humanitarian venture, “The 2023 Scholars-In-the-Making Supplement Fund.”
Thank you so much! When my most recent degree was coming to a close, I was really contemplating how I wanted to celebrate it other than the mother-daughter cruise that my sister, mom and I are on. Since I’m starting grad school in a few weeks, I didn’t think it made sense to throw a big party or anything like that. Then, I came up with the idea to do something that would make me feel happier and more fulfilled than anything else I could think of, which was giving back to others who are currently in school and being a very small part of easing the burden of academic pursuit on them or their families. So, I crunched some numbers and looked at what my firm, Calynn Communications & Creative corporation, could afford to give towards this project since we are the sole funders of all philanthropy through The Fresh Faces Project and said “Let’s go!”
Consequently, “The 2023 Scholars-In-the-Making Supplement Fund” was born! Essentially, I’ll be giving away cash stipends to either adult students who are currently in school or the families of minors who are students. Because my goal is to prioritize my giving to maximize impact, I am requiring that applicants firstly belong to a marginalized group (racial minority, woman, LGBTQIA, or disability) and that they second come from a modest income ($40,000 annual income or less for adult students and $80,000 for families that are applying on behalf of their minor children). The cash giveaway will be $50 per adult student and $100 per families with student children for school related expenses up to $2,000 total depending on the number of applicants. They will also receive an award certificate and spotlight on our platform.
So, it’s definitely something worth taking 10 minutes to apply for! We’re hoping we can garner a wide variety of recipients from diverse backgrounds with unique stories and circumstances as we look forward to telling their stories.
How exciting! This is a commendable thing to offer the community and we hope that all goes well with this great opportunity! How can people participate?
I appreciate your support! Everything is listed on The Fresh Faces Project website for those interested in applying. Submissions open April 10, 2023 and close July 29, 2023. All payments will be disbursed throughout August 2023 so the funds can be used for the upcoming school year! I look forward to reviewing everyone’s applications alongside the committee and reaching out to the chosen families and individuals who’ll receive the stipend. Things like this are an absolute pleasure for me, and I feel so blessed to be in a position to do things like this with the loving motivation of my family, friends and supporters.
Learn more about this opportunity at www.freshfacesproject.org